HomeLewisville LeaderNews Preparing for the worst: Lewisville departments join together for active s

28-Jul-2015

While they hope it never happens in their city, the Lewisville police and fire departments aren’t taking any chances when it comes to the possibility of an active shooter incident.

“Every city that has had an active shooter has felt the same way – that it could never happen in their city,” said Mark Richards, division chief for Lewisville Fire Department (LFD). “We all say that it won’t happen in our city, but to not be prepared is negligent on our part. We can all sleep better knowing we have a plan, and that if something does happen we’re ready to go to work.”

To that effort the LFD has partnered with the Lewisville Police Department (LPD) for joint training programs focused on active shooter training. While police have trained for those incidents for years, training with the fire department is a first. The program, more than two years in the making, was first rolled out to police and fire personnel in April during a daylong seminar taught by Reed Smith, co-founder of the Committee for Tactical Emergency Casualty Care.

Smith said both the Boston Marathon bombing and the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting were game changers for both first responders and the American public.

“It will never happen like that again – like it did in Boston. It changed the philosophy on medicine [how we treat victims],” Smith said. “Newtown was a cultural game changer. It brought it to the forefront of American consciousness. It’s nothing new, and it’s not surprising, but it made Americans pay attention to us [first responders]. We’re in a time period where Americans are focusing on this, and it’s important that we take advantage of it now.”

LPD officer Rob Feagins said before Columbine, police officers were taught to show up, set up a perimeter around the building and call the SWAT team.

“At Columbine that’s what they did, and it took about 55 minutes to get SWAT in the building – that’s unacceptable,” Feagins said. “We’ll never approach an active shooter incident like that again.”

Smith said preparing for an active shooting incident requires a fundamental shift in how fire, EMS and law enforcement work together. He said it is now one team working together.

“I’m giving you a pile of bricks, and I want you to look into your practices and take the bricks that work for you,” Smith said. “Take the bricks that work for you and build your house.”

And that’s just what the Lewisville departments are doing. After completing classroom training, both departments first practiced the new model at the joint training field before beginning more involved practical training at Killian Middle School.

Throughout the summer, police officers and firefighters have run active shooter drills at the school complete with volunteers playing the victims. The screams are real even if the bullets and situation are not. Officers are first to enter the school as soon as command gives the OK to start the real life scenario.

As they enter the hallways “victims” line the walls while the “shooter,” played by an officer, is staged in another hallway.

“Our job is to neutralize the threat, and our primary goal is to stop the killing,” Feagins said. “We try to make this as real as possible for the officers and firefighters.”

Using simulation rounds, police officers stop the “shooter” before bringing firefighters into the school. Feagins said just like in the scenario, in the event of an actual active shooter incident, police would not bring in firefighters until the shooter is down.

“We tell our guys that if they come in and everything seems OK, just keep searching,” Feagins said. “You keep searching until you find the bad guy.”

Feagins said typically an active shooting incident lasts about five minutes, and the LPD’s response time is three minutes.

“Statistically an active shooter event is over before we respond when you factor in the lag time between the event beginning and the initial 911 call,” Feagins said. “The priority is saving people, so our goal is around 10 to 12 minutes that we’ve given initial care to all victims.”

Richards said when firefighters enter the building, their job is to sort through victims. He said everyone is a victim until firefighters/paramedics come in and decide who has been killed and who is injured. Once they’re ready to move victims out of the building, paramedics use Med Sleds to transport them.

“We’ve used some type of Med Sled for years, but the version we’re using now is newer and better than what we used to have,” Richards said. “The mechanics are better making it safer and easier to transport victims.”

Richards said all fire engines and trucks carry the Med Sleds.

“We come in and try to save those who are injured. We have to prioritize the movement of patients, so we’re triaging as we go,” Richards said. “If they’ve been shot, they need help. Our goal is to get everyone out as quickly as possible.”

Richards said at all times the LFD’s rescue task force (RTF) will be escorted by both front and rear officers to ensure the paramedics’ safety.

“It’s nice to work hand-in-hand with police,” Richards said. “Our guys have been receptive to it. At first it’s nerve racking, but once they learn the basics and tactics it gets better. The big thing is building trust between the two departments. This model works because our firefighters trust in the police to provide escorts while they’re trying to save lives.”

Both departments are implementing the new training using a “crawl, walk, run” mentality. Feagins said on any given day when the departments are training, if everything runs smoothly and officers and firefighters seem to be executing the training as planned, with each run through slight changes are made.

“We keep increasing the number of victims as long as everyone is doing well. So we might start with two victims for the first scenario, but keep increasing the number to challenge them,” Feagins said. “We want to build up their confidence before piling on too much.”

Feagins said every time the departments run a scenario, police officers are running on the philosophy of plus one. He said if they have one active shooter they’re always looking for a second one.

Richards said the LFD has spent quite a bit of time on this new program.

“So far everyone has done well,” Richard said. “Our guys want to help. We signed up to save lives and protect people. I’m excited about this program. We don’t ever want to have to implement, but it’s good to have plan in place.”

FBI study results*

  • 156 involved single shooter
  • 158 were a male shooter,
  • 35 is median age of shooters
  • Median active shooter events result in two kills and two wounded
  • Most events last less than 10 minutes
  • 40 percent end with shooter committing suicide
  • *Covers 160 active shooter events from 2000 to 2013
  • *From “A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States between 2000 and 2013” by the FBI

Originally posted at the Lewisville Leader